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When Folk was born


E-minor7

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Me and 5 old bodies went to the movie-theater yesterday to see the new Coen Bros film about the New York folk-scene around 1960.

It was a fine, somewhat gloomy sinister yet humorous movie, but I won't talk to much about it here.

 

Just report as our man in the field :

 

One vintage J-45 - one top cracked D-28 - a Martin 00021 - some Spanish creature, maybe one other Mart and this one as the star.

Not so strong on these cool lookers,

 

but could it be a L2 something. . . InsideLlewynDavis3b.jpg

 

The 45 was a banner and I naturally thought if JT had his finger in this, , , you'll never know. . .

 

The thing is hereby recommended - for you veterans who were there when it happened and everyone else.

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I caught the movie last weekend Em. I wasn't dazzled but I did enjoy it. Nice tone on the L? (don't know my L's). It did remind me of Dave Van Ronk. The first record I bought of his was Inside Dave Van Ronk, looked just like the cover of the Inside Llewyn Davis from the movie. Opening song, Hangman, was on there as well as some other long time favorites.

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IMO the film is no more about the early sixties folk scene in Greenwich Village than that period was the birth of folk. The village folk scene is the background for a quirky Coen brothers film; the film is set in this time and place but is not actually about the folk scene. I liked the film but found expectations that had been built up by people suggesting this film explored the folk scene itself were disappointed. The music in the film struck me as well executed, mainstream sort of folk but not terribly impressive as music or guitar playing though the directors are to be commended for including full songs. The protagonist's L-1 sounded plinkety to me, like a ladder braced guitar.

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I had high expectations for this flick, but was let down. A lot of dark side to this film, perhaps too much. It wasn't the birth of the folk boom...that occurred with the Weavers a decade or so before the film setting, which then went full blast with the Kingston Trio Trio circa 1957-8 and evolved into the period covered in the movie. The movie makes some reference to it in a round-about way when folk starting turning a lot more serious and personal vs the peppy hit sound that the late 50s folk embraced. An off-the-cuff mention in the flick of an idea of a folk group being to be assembled with two guys with beards and a female singer was quite a cool reference to the group of Peter, Paul, and Mary which successfully bridged the late 50's Kingston Trio era to the new early 60s folk. (Keep in mind even Dave Guard of the original Kingston Trio moved on from the KT in '61, replaced by John Stewart where they went on and had the hit song Where Have All the Flowers Gone which they traded for Lemon Tree with Peter, Paul, and Mary.)

 

But, the film certainly was way dark. Forget the now established mythology of the ramblin' solo folk singer. The flick portayed that folk singer in a non-glamorous troubled soul way than the mythology over time has established. The times certainly were a changin' and the film portrays a lot of condescendence on the folk singer of the time. Although, the sudden appearance of Bob Dylan on the scene at the end of the period the film portrayed certainly started the beginning of a new folk era on which all the rest jumped on-board...was quite interesting to reflect upon after the movie ended.

 

I found the guitars in the movie interesting. Some of the music okay. The main character way too much a downer.

 

I think the movie was more about shattering myths of the early folk scene...but that's just my impression. I was a very very young guitar playing folk singer during the period the flick portrayed. Before I saw the movie I was telling my wife about how she might find parts of me in the movie (trying to impress her with my guitar-playing as ever). After the movie was over, I found myself telling her to disregard what I had earlier said...and, instead told her I was NOTHING like the main character (which is true), but that I knew many early folksingers throughout the 60s and 70s who were exactly as troubled and down and out as the main character and it was pretty sad to witness.

 

But, despite all this...it is a movie acoustic guitar players should see and take in.

 

BTW, Justin Timberlake was pretty good in the movie as kind of a peppy clueless folk musician trying to crack into the late 50s folk era that was disappearing.

 

QM aka Jazzman Jeff

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@Jerry K

 

Agree – notice I wrote 'modern folk' in the tread-sub-title and after all the club-tableaus end with having a certain Zimmerman walking on. . .

But yes – the film provides a well done time-painting, yet isn't a pictures of its times.

Neither is it a document about the specific folk-scene – where fx is the political part of that movement.

Thus the film ends up as portrait of the subject in the middle – the poor struggling Llewis Davis and this angle steers to some sort of artistic problem.

He simply is too 1-dimensional and empty to drive the plot.

As a youngster and a sky-storming visionary in the music world you need quite an amount of sisu.

To attack the dream of fame by playing guitar takes wild fantasms and oversized spirit sweet-spiced with talent for sheer romance.

The leading role has none of this left after his failing debut-record and though rather good, he seems to be out of gas.

This won't make any Gaslight Cafe shine and definitely won't bring him further to what he is after.

 

The problematic issue is that it kind undermines the overall movie too. .

 

 

 

Still – if not for anything else, go see it for the scenographies and settings. Some of the music is also worth the visit.

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But, despite all this...it is a movie acoustic guitar players should see and take in.

 

BTW, Justin Timberlake was pretty good in the movie as kind of a peppy clueless folk musician trying to crack into the late 50s folk era that was disappearing.

 

Spot on - InsideLlewynDavis4b.jpg

 

 

let's not forget the humour scattered everywhere. . .

 

 

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The film does a certain amount of smirking at these 1961 folkies. There are no characters who make you feel like they are really going somewhere with their art. OK, maybe Llewyn a little but I get a sense of him struggling to make it as a musician but no feeling of an artist with a vision, with creative stuff bubbling out. His performances are not bad, pretty good even, and yet he comes off more as 'my son the folk singer' than guy with a message, with music coursing through him. Because ultimately the film is not about folk music or the Village scene in 61; it's about a shlemiel who just can't walk on the sidewalk without stepping in dog doo.

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Because ultimately the film is not about folk music or the Village scene in 61; it's about a shlemiel who just can't walk on the sidewalk without stepping in dog doo.

 

You never struck me as being a landsman.

 

But its a movie for crying out loud, not a documentary. All you really needed was to have a guitar slung your shoulder, know a handful of chords, and act concerned about the state of humanity.

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But its a movie for crying out loud, not a documentary. All you really needed was to have a guitar slung your shoulder, know a handful of chords, and act concerned about the state of humanity.

 

 

Listen to ZW here. It's the way a lot of us started out at that time. For me, it was a folk trio (two guys and a blonde girl singer, duh!) in high school in 1964. For every Robert Zimmerman, there were 10,000 like us.

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Listen to ZW here. It's the way a lot of us started out at that time. For me, it was a folk trio (two guys and a blonde girl singer, duh!) in high school in 1964.

 

It did always seem to be a trio didn't it. I started in a duo - me on guitar with a singer/harmonica player. The first member we added though was a lady singer (the other guy was a far better harp player than singer). Although we lifted most of our stuff from Leadbelly, Odetta, Dave Van Ronk, and such we did have to at least have a air of social consciousness so included Jim Garland's "I Don't Want Your Millions Mister" which somebody or the other had showed us.

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I'm a bit astounded at the lack of understanding of the message. Its a Cohen Brothers film. The inner hidden deeper secret meaning here, is that it is the correlation of the cat, as a symbol of Davis's life. The setting, the music, and the guitars held my interest, but its a movie about a cat.

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Oh yeah, Duluth, me and the lads were aware when discussing the film on a near by bar after it was over.

The cat represented his inner soft spot, , , when it died, when he crushed it, something important was left behind out there on the road.

 

I even went as far as seeing it as a reference the Subterranean Homesick Blues sleeve, , , but mistaked the cafe au lait for Bobs gray.

 

Mmmmm, , , don't know if you are kitten-kiddin', , , but the cat surely played a role. . .

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  • 2 weeks later...

When the cat was the most interesting thing going on the in the film, you know you have problems. Cool music vidoes strung tother with scences about "a shlemiel who just can't walk on the sidewalk without stepping in dog do" does not a movie make. A $4 million doodle. THe CBS need to stop having "ideas" for movies (see Burn After Reading) and get back to writing scripts.

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When the cat was the most interesting thing going on the in the film, you know you have problems. Cool music vidoes strung tother with scences about "a shlemiel who just can't walk on the sidewalk without stepping in dog do" does not a movie make. A $4 million doodle. THe CBS need to stop having "ideas" for movies (see Burn After Reading) and get back to writing scripts.

 

Agree - had this movie up again with a girlfriend, who just saw it last week.

 

And yes, , , , I mean NO - there's nothing really to bring with you except for memories of the fine historical scenography, a little music and a few jokes. . .

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I found the movie to be so ho-hum that I haven't thought about it much since I walked out of the theatre. If it's a cat movie I liked Fritz the Cat (the movie) a whole lot better and it has stuck with me longer. There is a scene, in the car, where he has a Shubb capo on his guitar, that let's in an historical inaccuracy but that's sorta like seeing jet contrails in a Western and only creates a minor diversion. Not my favorite Cohen brothers movie that's for sure.

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